Rahal, Unser knock Michael Andretti off front, tighten points 0) race


ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Teammates Bobby Rahal and Al Unser Jr. swept the front-row positions for today's Texaco-Havoline 200 and applied some pressure to Indy-car points leader Michael Andretti.

Rahal's record-setting lap of 134.466 mph Friday held up yesterday in the final round of qualifying, giving the two-time CART PPG Cup champion his 15th career pole, first since a race in Nazareth, Pa., in October. More importantly, it gave him one more point in the championship battle.

That cut Andretti's lead over Rahal to 176-172 and gave both Rahal and Unser, the defending series winner, a nice boost.

"I'm glad my teammate was the one chasing me," Rahal said with a grin. "But he cut it a little close for my liking."

Unser's last lap of the 30-minute session was his quickest at 134.420, just .046 mph slower than Rahal's quick lap and easily the fastest of the day. It could have been better if he had not run out of fuel.

"We cut the fuel just a little too short," Unser said after relegating Andretti, who was second after Friday's session, to the second row for today's 50-lap, 200-mile race on the four-mile, 14-turn road course.

It's the first time the Galles-Kraco Racing teammates will share the front row.

For Unser, who is third in the standings with 153 points, it is the best starting position since he lined up next to pole-winner Andretti at Long Beach in the second race of the season.

Andretti, the defending race champion, improved from 133.089 on Friday to 133.721 yesterday but still slipped off the front row for the first time since starting fifth in the Marlboro 500 on Aug. 2.

Andretti said: "I'm disappointed because we went faster than [Friday] and were faster than Rahal [yesterday]. . . . I wanted to at least stay on the front row. But we tried some things that didn't work."

Today's race is one of only three remaining on the 17-race CART schedule.

"Time is running out," Unser said. "Everybody's fighting to get everything they can."

Rahal had led the season points standings for nine races until Andretti, who has six victories -- two in a row -- and seven poles this season, caught and passed him with a win last Sunday in Ohio.

Goody's 500

Dale Earnhardt is trying to pay as little attention as possible to his disappearing points lead as the Winston Cup season winds down.

"You have to think about points, but you don't let that overrule the job you have to do," said Earnhardt, who will start fifth today in the Goody's 500, the 24th race on the 29-stop circuit.

"Our primary concern is to win the race," the four-time Winston Cup champion said. "If we do that, we will get the most points you can get. If we can't win the race, then we'll think about points."

Earnhardt and Ricky Rudd are locked in the third-closest points battle in Winston Cup history.

Rudd, who was 160 points behind Earnhardt heading into the Aug. 11 race in Watkins Glen, N.Y., now trails Earnhardt by just 36 points.

"I kind of like the underdog role in the points race right now," Rudd said. "Never being in this position before, I think if we were leading it, we might be looking over our shoulder."

Goody's 150


Mike Buffkin emerged victorious in the late model stock car race when the apparent winner, Curtis Markham, was disqualified in a post-race inspection.

"I wish that I had won it on the racetrack, but I had the fastest car under the rules," Buffkin said.

NASCAR officials said Markham, Roy Hendrick, who finished third, and John Livingston, who finished fourth, were all disqualified because the heads in their engines did not meet NASCAR specifications.

Portuguese Grand Prix

ESTORIL, Portugal

Riccardo Patrese of Italy, using a spare car at the last moment, gained the pole position with a qualifying record in the second trial session.

Patrese took the top spot from Gerhard Berger after the Austrian failed to better his time from Friday.

Patrese, forced to go to a backup Williams-Renault after blowing the engine of his other car earlier in the one-hour practice session, was timed in 1 minute, 13.001 seconds, an average of 133.30 mph for the 2.73-mile Autodromo circuit.

Patrese didn't think he had a chance for the seventh pole position of his career after his first car died on the track. He walked slowly back to the pits.

"I was very disappointed when I stopped," Patrese said. "I thought I had the potential for a quick lap but I stopped."

But when he returned to the pits, he saw his team getting the backup in shape.

"I saw how hard the team was working to get the second car ready and I got back my concentration," Patrese said.

Ayrton Senna of Brazil, the world champion and Berger's teammate, was third. He bettered his Friday time with a 1:13.444 clocking. He was followed by Nigel Mansell of Britain, also in a Williams-Renault, in 1:13.667.

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